The HBO series Zendaya is a dazzling, award-winning series that has attracted attention. However, it remains so bleakly nihilistic and unrelentingly negative that viewers are unsure how far Sam Levinson will push the boundaries of sex, nudity and drug use. Answer: Yes, quite far indeed.
"Euphoria," which strives to be different from the slick soapiness of "Gossip Girls" and other TV shows in the genre, tries to compete with the most raw movies that have explored these areas or premium series such as "Genera+ion" or "13 Reasons Why," which itself is a source for controversy.
But any TV show boils down ultimately to its characters. Zendaya's Rue provides heavy-handed narration, and some episodes have a dreamlike quality.
Levinson has arranged the season in a series of stories that each feature a different character. These stories are then brought together over the seven episodes. There is a commonality to the issues at play, including Rue's relationship and Jules's (Hunter Schafer), and the triangle that involves Cassie (Sydney Sweeney), Maddy and Nate (Jacob Elordi), each of whom are bruised and hurt in their own ways.
The new season does not completely avoid the tendency to make the parents monsters or ineffectual grumps. This is despite the fact that some of their stories have been fleshed out.
Criticizing "Euphoria," as someone who has been raised on teen dramas of the past, risks a certain "Get out of my lawn" quality. Zendaya won an Emmy for her first season and her intense performance.
However, the characters are written so well that viewers almost dare to care about them. The show's attempts at being edgy sometimes feel icky. One example is a later encounter where a gun was used as a form of foreplay.
While a show like this might not be for everyone, streaming is becoming a more popular option. However, it does have the advantage of appealing to viewers who may not be able to watch HBO Max or HBO Max as often. It returns with "The Righteous Gemstones," a series that presents a new spin on dysfunctional families. This is not a very compatible pairing.
The "Euphoria" teens (as is typical) haven’t monopolized the market for self-absorption. This latest episode of "Euphoria" unfolds with a grim, unfavorable efficiency that can make you feel as numb and irritable as Rue.
Season 2 of "Euphoria", season 2, premieres January 9th at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. HBO, like CNN, is a WarnerMedia unit.